Smith: Amazing to see Warriors stars realise dream of winning URC title

The Warriors came back from 13-0 down to win the game 21-16.

Glasgow Warriors win URC title for first time since 2015 after beating the Bulls Getty Images

Glasgow Warriors head coach France said it was “amazing” to see his player realising their dream of winning the United Rugby Championship title.

The Scottish side landed the trophy for the first time since 2015 after a hard-fought 21-16 victory over the Bulls at a sold-out Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.

Having beaten the Stormers, the 2022 winners, and defending champions Munster to reach the Grand Final, the Warriors avoided a third loss in the showpiece with a fantastic performance in Pretoria, South Africa.

Speaking to STV Sport after arriving back in Glasgow, Smith said: “For me it’s fantastic to see the guys’ realising a dream that’s been in the club and in their hearts for a while, and in the last month they have worked really hard to achieve that.

“We have moved some parameters and boundaries and I think winning this tournament is important for their growth and gives them the opportunity to be the best they can be.

“I think the game against Munster helped a lot from our perspective, there was only 20,000 Irish people there and there was 50,000 people in South Africa, which is obviously the most passionate country for this game.

“I know that because I played there and I am South African so I know how much the win would have meant to them, so we had to give everything.

“They threw everything at us and we had to be resilient enough not to be influenced by the conditions, the circumstances, the travel leading up to it.

“So just to go out there and play the way did is where the compliment sits.”

A pair of Johan Goosen penalties separated the sides before Marco van Staden’s try, converted by Goosen, gave the Bulls – beaten by the Stormers in the 2022 final – a 13-0 lead.

Glasgow hauled themselves back into the game on the stroke of half-time when Scott Cummings powered his way over the line, with George Horne adding the extras.

Goosen’s third penalty extended the Bulls’ lead to nine points but tries from George Turner and Huw Jones, both converted by Horne, ensured the Warriors would emerge triumphant.

The Bulls, who had lost only one of their last 12 URC matches at this venue, led inside 100 seconds through Goosen’s penalty.

A second successful kick followed before Wilco Louw was denied a try by the TMO, who deemed he was held up by Rory Darge.

But the Bulls were not to be denied moments later when Van Staden barged his way through the Glasgow defence, with Goosen landing the conversion.

Bulls' South African number eight Cameron Hanekom (L) tackles Glasgow Warriors' Scottish open side flanker Rory Darge (R) during the United Rugby Championship (URC) final match between The Bulls (Pretoria) and Glasgow Warriors (Glasgow) at Loftus Versfeld stadium in Pretoria on June 22, 2024. (Photo by Phill Magakoe / AFP)Getty Images

Glasgow responded well and gave themselves a lifeline moments before the break when Cummings went over and Horne converted.

Buoyed by that score, Glasgow came out strong in the second half but another Goosen penalty brought some relief to the Bulls.

A few minutes later, though, the Warriors cut the deficit to just two points when Turner, on his last appearance for the club, went over from a maul, which Horne converted.

Jones then grabbed Glasgow’s third try, with Horne again successful from the tee, to lead for the first time in the game before Jack Dempsey was denied another by the TMO.

Horne was just short with a long-range penalty attempt but Glasgow had to see out the final moments with 14 players after Tom Jordan was yellow-carded for a high tackle on Francois Klopper.

Bulls piled on the pressure late on but the Warriors held on to be crowned champions.

After the game Glasgow captain Kyle Steyn saluted a collective effort from the side.

He told Premier Sports: “I’m so proud of the guys. Credit to the Bulls, they came out firing in front of their fans and put us under pressure.

“I’m so proud of the belief of my guys, no matter what’s been thrown at us in the last three weeks. No matter what’s been thrown at us, they’ve stuck at it.

“The defensive shift at the end there, some of the hits up front… I’m over the moon.

“To go into half-time 13-7 down, we’d have taken that after the first half we had. That settled us.

“We started the second half really well. We took the intensity up a notch and I’m just chuffed to bits.”

After the game the head coach said: “The boys have played well, bought in.

“The half-time chat was easy. We knew we had a good plan for the second half. We let them in through our own errors, like last week. They stuck to the script.

“There’s a lot to be said about the hard edge of the European teams and we brought it tonight, especially in the last 10-15 minutes.

“We defended our line well and applied a lot of pressure to the maul. The boys fronted up to a very strong South African team with 50,000 people behind them. They can be very proud.

“This team shouldn’t be done after tonight. We’ve got the building blocks to go further still.”

Player of the match Matt Fagerson said: “Words cannot describe how we’re feeling right now.

“It’s something we’ve been working towards all season and to do it in a place as historic as this in front of all these fans is, I can’t put it into words.

“I think in the last three or four games, we’ve really taken a liking to knock-out rugby in a sense of we’re not overplaying the ball and when you’ve got a kicker like George Horne, it makes things so much easier.

“We went the hard way but we wouldn’t change it for the world.”

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